By Mario & Paola Martinez
Without love, I am nothing: Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:13-14).
We often encounter couples who fear their individual needs and wants will be dismissed when experiencing marital trials. These spouses then tend to insist on having their own way, thinking that they are fighting for justice, and that if they do not watch out for themselves, then no one else will. As a result, these couples experience increased irritability, frustration and resentment.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (which means “the joy of love”), the Holy Father talks about how these violent reactions within ourselves, as a result of the weaknesses and faults of others, are becoming an ordinary part of life. He further explains that the hidden irritation that sets us on edge helps no one and only causes hurt and isolation.
Pope Francis suggests that it is in the small actions that harmony can be restored. He urges that the spouse’s “first reaction when annoyed should be one of heartfelt blessing, asking God to bless, free and heal that person.” (AL #103).
The last time we checked, it is still virtually impossible to read each other’s minds! As spouses, each with individual thoughts, needs and feelings, we are on a lifelong journey of learning to share what is on our minds and hearts, in order to grow in intimacy and connection with each other. In a healthy marriage, there is you, and there is me, each called to fulfill the others needs with the help of God’s grace. If for example, one spouse has the need to feel safe and secure, their spouse ought to find a practical way to help him or her feel safe and secure.
Now, there is also “us!” The “us” is more important than “you” or “me.” According to many marriage experts, the greatest secret to a lifelong marriage is learning how to find the “us.” “Us” is about two people discovering how to become “one flesh” and understanding the oneness of marriage.
To further demonstrate how “you,” “me” and “us” interact, let’s think about colors. Let’s say the husband is represented by blue and the wife is represented by yellow. When you mix blue and yellow, you make green. So, both colors combined may represent the “us.” In other words, the secret to a healthy marriage is learning to be green.
Some people think that marriage is about giving 50 percent and 50 percent. There’s nothing wrong with providing half, but giving half means you are always giving up at least half of what you want. Many couples are angry with their spouse because for 20 years, they have always been getting only half of what they want, and they are very frustrated and resentful. The us is more profound than half and goes beyond half.
The first step is to recognize that us is always there. Most likely, you already believe that blue and yellow are there, but it may take a greater effort to believe that the “us” is there, too, in every problem and situation. Is your marriage more blue than yellow, or more yellow than blue? Or is your marriage green?
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.